While you’re probably familiar with museums like the Louvre and Orsay whose collections can be described as “encyclopaedic” and from their origins (or almost) were public, there are many smaller ones that at one time were the private property of Parisians who generously donated their homes and their art collections to France.
We’ve made a selection of elegant private residences that you can visit during your next visit to Paris:
Musée Jacquemart André
The Jacquemart André museum was the home of Edouard André (1833-1894) and Nélie Jacquemart (1841 - 1912), who bequeathed their mansion and their art collection to the Institut de France. André inherited a fortune from his father and married Jacquemart, a society painter. They were both passionate about Italian art and every year traveled to Italy to buy it. Their Italian collection includes works by Botticelli, Francesco Botticini, Perugino, Ucello, Mantegna and Bellini. Even after André died, his wife continued collecting art works from Italy and the Orient.
This is one of my favorite small museums in Paris, because in addition to the works of art, you are able to visit their home and view what life was like for the well-to-do in the latter part of 19th century Paris.
StrollsParis tip: Be sure to visit the tea room and look at the incredible fresco on the ceiling.
Where to find it: Musée Jacquemart André, 158 boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris — Metro Saint Philippe du Roule (line 9) Courcelles (line 2)
Cité de l'Économie
This museum is devoted to the study of economics, so all you economists out there might want to add it to your itinerary. For the rest of us, it’s another piece of the fascinating history of how the very wealthy 19th century French were able to display their art collections.
The building is the Hotel Gaillard, built for Emile Gaillard, a wealthy banker from Grenoble who seemed to face the problem of many bankers of that time: not having enough space or the right space to display their art collections. He was a collector of art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In 1882, he was able to move into his new home with his collection and stayed there until 1919 when he sold the building, but not the art collection, to the Banque de France. Yes, this was the neighborhood bank for a rather upper class neighborhood. Banking activity stopped in 2006 and the plan to develop the museum was announced in 2011.
StrollsParis tip: For non-economists, If you’re going to be in the neighborhood, seeing the exterior of this neo-Renaissance masterpiece is worth the detour. And also, be sure to visit the Parc Monceau, which is just steps away.
Where to find it: 1 place du Général Catroux, 75017 Paris — Metro Monceau (Line 2)
Musée Nissim de Camondo
This museum will remind you of visiting the summer homes in Newport, Rhode Island, USA if you’ve ever done that. The advantage here is that it is less crowded than the Newport homes and you won’t be rushed from room to room. The house was built for Count Moise de Camondo in 1911 but the design is based on the 18th century Petit Trianon at Versailles.
De Camondo’s passion was arts and crafts from the time of Louis XVI, but also fine examples of decorative arts such as the Savonniere carpets woven in 1678 for the Grand Galerie of the Louvre or the dinner service table setting of Orloff silver that was commissioned by Catherine II of Russia attracted his attention.
Moise was the father of Nissim de Camondo, a pilot in the French army during World War I who was killed in action. At the death of Count de Camondo in 1935, it was announced that he had decided to bequeath his home and its furnishings to France in memory of his son, and thanks to his generosity we now have the museum, which opened in 1936.
StrollsParis tip: Be sure to visit the impressive kitchen that was used to feed the de Camondo family, the staff and their friends.
Where to find it: 63 rue de Monceau, 75008 Paris — Metro Monceau (line 2).
Question for you: If your house were to become a museum, what would you want to have displayed? Leave us your comments below. Wishing you artistically nice visit,
Eliot & Pamela